Mr. Sato experiences a classic of Japanese hairstyling from the Showa Era to get in touch with… Eh, okay. He lost a bet.
Fans of classic Japanese cinema from the 70s and 80s will no doubt have encountered the punch perm. As the name suggests it’s a perm – a very tight one at that – and coincidentally the men who tend to sport it are often of the punchy variety, be they yakuza, yankee, or bosozoku.
In other words, it’s a hairstyle that says an awful lot about the person wearing it, which is probably why it never got mainstream success and is relegated to a novelty cut much like a mullet or a Kid ‘n Play caliber hi-top fade. Piko Taro had brought the hairstyle back into the limelight last year but it still failed to catch on.
Nevertheless, if you come across a Japanese guy with a punch perm, it’s probably best to steer clear because they tend to have short fuses. So, it’s only fitting that our experience with the punch perm begins with a friendly wager over petit fours.
● High-stakes snack cakes
Recently, snack maker Bourbon held a vote to rank their most popular bite-sized cookies, crackers, and cakes. Mr. Sato was certain the White Lolita would win, whereas P.K. Sanjun backed the Rumond.
▼ Of course, they’re both out of their minds because the Baum Roll is by far the superior snack.
Mr. Sato and P.K. were so confident they made a friendly bet that the loser would have to get a punch perm. So after White Lolita was thoroughly trounced by Rumond – 2,845 votes to 816 – Mr. Sato accepted his loss like the gentleman he is.
● Punching the spike
Actually getting a punch perm proved to be more difficult than anyone had imagined. This particular hairstyle used to be the domain of the humble barber, but with the increasing popularity of fancy salons in Japan and government deregulation, barbers are fast becoming an endangered species. And even among these remaining barbers, even fewer are skilled in the art of the punch perm.
Luckily, a thorough investigation led us to Hair Salon Ginza Matsunaga in Asakusa, Tokyo. Not only did they employ a barber capable of giving a punch perm, they were kind enough to allow us to document the process.
Until this point, Mr. Sato had been rocking a grown-in Mohawk and was worried the sides might still be too short to properly pull off the punch perm.
Luckily, Mr. Sato’s barber was an 18-year veteran despite looking like he was only 22 years old. This being a salon, our reporter was worried that they might try some tasteful, stylish interpretation of a punch perm, so he was very clear that he wanted it “as crinkly as possible.”
He felt like he was in very capable hands, but bit by bit the barber was cropping off an awful lot of hair. Mr. Sato had never gotten a punch perm in his life so he didn’t really know how the process goes, but he was growing frightened that a mistake might have been made.
After the cutting stopped, the barber applied a coat of chemicals to the remaining hair and placed a plastic cover around it. They had time to kill while the perm was setting, so Mr. Sato got a shave.
When it was ready, the barber took out a curling iron and began rolling his shortened hairs row by row. Mr. Sato’s forehead glistened with sweat from the heat of the iron as he listened to the repeated wooosh chkchkchk at the top of this head.
▼ Woosh chkchkchk
▼ Woosh chkchkchk
In the end, it was looking like a partially used brillo pad, but the work was not done yet. First a trim to clean out the rough patches. Then, another coat of perm and finally a wash.
The barber apologized that he couldn’t get the curls as tight as he would have liked. It turns out the constant, relentless, unforgiving abuse that Mr. Sato has done to his hair through his countless image changes has made it incredibly thick and durable.
Normal hair would require about 140 degrees to punch perm but Mr. Sato’s took a whole 169 degrees just to get the curls reasonably tight.
But when it was all said and done, the punch perm was in full effect. Mr. Sato was pleased with the craftsmanship of his barber and thought he looked a little like the Buddha himself as a result.
● Rokketto-gumi Wakagashira
And conveniently the mean streets of Asakusa was the perfect place to show off his new Tough-Guy Sato image.
▼ “What did you say?”
▼”You want to know where the big red lantern is?”
▼ “Whadda I look like, a freakin’ tour guide?! Scram punk!!!”
With his aviator glasses and partially waxed eyebrows, Mr. Sato was indeed threatening.
However, something still wasn’t quite right.
It was Mr. Sato’s age, shining through in the silver streaks running through his newly punch permed hair. In this way he looked like some washed up ruffian still clinging to his glory days.
So instead he switched to a suit for a more mature “corporate gangster” look.
▼ “Oh? Am I not intimidating you with my combination of wealth and machismo?”
▼ “Not hard boiled enough for ya? I see, well how about some…”
▼ “Monochrome boke!!!”
▼”The name’s Roketto-gumi Wakagashira Sato Hidenori (Road Warrior Clan Leuitenant Hidenori Sato)”
Let us know in the comments whether you prefer the Before-Sato, who looks like he just set up your company’s email server, or After-Sato, who looks like he just set up five severed heads in a gym bag on the door step of a rival cartel.
Whichever you choose, in the end he’s still our Mr. Sato on the inside, and that’s all that matters.